According to trade data sourced from China Customs, China imported 36.8 million cubic metres of lumber in 2018, a slight decline of 1.6 percent from 2017. Of total lumber imports, softwood lumber accounted for 24.9 million cubic metres, a slight decrease of one percent compared to 2017.
However, Russian softwood lumber exports to China were a whopping 15.65 million cubic metres in 2018, an increase of 10 percent compared with 2017. This is more than double the exports in 2014 and now represents a 63% share of the China market. Clearly, China’s “Belt & Road Initiative” (BRI) was partly responsible for the increase in softwood lumber volumes from Russia to China.
The Belt & Road Initiative is a massive program that includes many large-scale infrastructure projects with other countries. Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the main purpose was to shift overproduction to inland regions, taking advantage of China’s lower labor costs and capacity. At the same time, it’s designed to improve the supply chains of key suppliers and to crucial export markets, improving the competitiveness of Chinese goods and raw materials.